Problem of Duplicate Signatures Looms Over Recall

MacIver News Service | November 29, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] The state board overseeing the potential recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tells the MacIver News Service that they will rely upon temporary workers to scrutinize recall petitions and those individuals will not be expected to catch any duplicate signatures submitted by recall organizers.

This revelation comes as one statewide liberal group is actively promoting the collection of duplicate signatures, paving the way for a lengthy process wherein Walker supporters will challenge the validity of the recall petitions.

Screen shot from One Wisconsin Now's website

One Wisconsin Now, a liberal non-profit, posted on its website “You can circulate or sign a recall petition even if you have already signed another recall petition.”

This advice, however, will complicate the signature challenge process and runs counter to the advice of nonpartisan state election regulators.

“While it is not illegal to sign more than once, we do not suggest people sign a second time unless they have good reason to believe the first petition they signed was somehow fraudulent,” Reid Magney, GAB Spokesman.

One Wisconsin Now follows their advice with this disclaimer: “[N]ote, however, that only one signature per person will be counted.

That is not necessarily true.

Magney told MNS said that the pro-union groups obtaining recall signatures will be expected to self-police the collection of duplicate signatures.

However, neither the state Democratic Party nor the pro-labor organizations steering the recall drive have disclosed any process by which they will identify and discard the duplicate signatures they obtain.

Recall organizers announced Monday that they have collected 300,000 of the 540,000 signatures necessary to trigger a recall election of Walker. Until those signatures are actually submitted to the GAB, however, there is no way to verify that claim or determine whether that figure includes duplicate signatures. Even then, it will be up to outside groups like the Walker campaign or the state Republican Party to sort through the signatures to find any invalid and/or duplicate signatures.

Until the signatures are submitted and independently checked, there is no way to know how many people are heeding One Wisconsin Now’s advice.

Magney noted the GAB will flag duplicate signatures in the event they easily discover them. However, the GAB will not be entering the hand-written information into a searchable database to check for duplicates. The recall committee and the incumbent targeted for recall are the ones primarily responsible for catching the extra signatures, he said.

“It is in the recall committee’s interest to identify and eliminate duplicate signatures because duplicates would inflate the numbers and make them more vulnerable to challenge by the incumbent,” said Magney.

Recall groups have stated their goal is to collect 700,000 by the January 17 deadline. They need to obtain 540,208 valid signatures to trigger a recall.

Further complicating the review of the signatures, the GAB plans to hire temporary workers to perform these duties under the supervision of regular GAB staff. The temps will be hired through agencies that have contracts with the Department of Administration, according to the GAB.

As of November 17, the GAB estimated the cost of reviewing the petitions will be at least $625,699. This figure does not include the cost borne by municipal county and state government to hold the recall election.